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Gatwick and easyJet in UK’s first end-to-end biometrics trial

Gatwick will use the trial to assess how long each interaction takes, how it simplifies the passenger journey, how passengers interact with the technology and how intuitive the process is in preparation for a large-scale roll out.

BLAZING THE TRAIL: 10,000 easyJet passengers set to take part in European flight trial Photograph: JMilstein

Gatwick Airport has announced it will play host to the UK’s first trial of end-to-end biometrics – where personal data collected at the airport’s self-service bag drops will be recognised by new automated self-boarding gates.

The trial, which is being run in partnership with Gatwick’s biggest airline, easyJet, will see new self-boarding technology identify each passenger and verify that their passport, face and boarding card all match in less than 20 seconds. 

Passengers who wish to take part in the trial but who are travelling without luggage (i.e do not need to use self-service bag drop) will be able to have their data collected at the entrance to the boarding gate room.  

The trial will be the first and most extensive of its kind in the UK and will run for at least three months so that around 10,000 passengers take part on the 43 Gatwick routes. This range, the airport has said, should allow it to gather enough meaningful information to be able to spot trends and adapt the technology to ensure the optimum experience for passengers.

Gatwick Airport’s Chief Operating Officer, Chris Woodroofe, said: “Gatwick prides itself on providing innovative solutions to enhance the passenger experience at every touch point. With the rate of growth we have experienced, it is essential we are able to find more efficient ways of processing passengers through the airport safely and securely. Self-boarding technology is the obvious next piece in the jigsaw following extensive investment in our automated check-in and security processing areas.

“I’m excited to see this trial come to life with easyJet’s passengers. Together we are at the forefront of providing technological solutions that enhance the passenger journey.”

Gatwick will be looking at how long each interaction takes, what this means for queue times, how it simplifies the passenger journey, how passengers interact with the technology, and how intuitive the process is. The faster, more efficient process also has the potential to improve aircraft departure times. 

Once all the data is gathered, the technology will be adapted and adjusted before taking the idea forward for airport-wide implementation. 

easyJet’s Director of Ground Operations, Karen Cox, said: “We are trialling new facial recognition technology at Gatwick for the first time which, if rolled out, could revolutionise the boarding experience for our customers. The technology streamlines the processes our customers go through, saving them time and enhancing their travel experiences.

“Whilst still in its very early stages this project is clearly consistent with our digital strategy of continuing to innovate to make passengers’ journey’s easier at every stage of their interaction with us – from searching and browsing for a flight through to stepping off the aircraft in their destination.“